Premium vodkas are so last century. The new chic drink is
quality, artisan tequila. How do I know? Riedel has come out with a
line of specially designed tequila glasses (something in between a
champagne flute and a snifter) and the estate of Frida Kahlo has
licensed a premium tequila bearing the artist’s image. These are
strictly for sipping — not the kind of swill you shot in college.
Like fine wines, tequila is produced in a defined appellation, a
legally defined region, primarily in the state of Jalisco. Tequilas
labeled “100 percent agave” are made entirely from the fermented
sap of the blue agave plant. Tequilas without the 100 percent
demarcation, mixtos, contain at least 51 percent blue agave. There
are more than 600 brands and flavors change dramatically from
producer to producer, depending on growing conditions, soil,
climate, and distilling techniques. However, there are four primary

Blanco or Plata (“silver”): Clear, fresh from the still, with a
strong agave flavor and a rougher edge. Oro (“gold”): Mellowed by
the addition of colors and flavorings, such as caramel, to make it
appear old (think Cuervo Gold and frozen margaritas). Reposado
(“rested”): Aged in white oak casks for two months to a year; the
oak mellows the flavor slightly, making it gentler on the palate.
Añejo (“aged”): Aged more than a year, it takes on the woody flavor
of the cask and a dark amber color.

Tequila is traditionally served at room temperature in a
caballito, a tall, thin shot glass. Some prefer the Riedel approach
or a brandy snifter for reposados and añejos. The lime-and-salt
routine is a gringo fabrication; the traditional chaser is a
tomato-citrus concoction called sangrita. And what of that worm? It
was a marketing ploy to impress gringos in the 1940s. It has
nothing to do with tequila production, and eating it will not
produce hallucination, unless, of course, you drink the entire


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